San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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July 8th, 2009
This Martian Life: One nation, under many

This Martian Life: A Column
By SEAN WARDWELL
Managing Editor  

In all our human debates, there can be none quite as stupid or futile than those about God and religion. There can be no subject that has incited so much hatred and spilled so much blood over something that can never be 100 percent proven. It’s called faith for a reason. If it were fact, then we wouldn’t need faith.

Yet, for some reason, there will always be those who believe their faith is fact, and the only relevant fact in existence. They will attempt to force that “fact” on others under the delusion that they’re doing them a favor. They’ll use a vessel that should be filled with love, and carry poison in it instead. They’ll take the image and symbols of a man of peace and use them to make war. They’ll rationalize the most vile and disgusting behaviors as hating the sin and loving the sinner.

They will, in short, colossally miss the point and expect us to thank them for their epic mistakes.

This became sadly evident after reading several comments on a story we ran regarding a request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to halt sectarian prayer at meetings of the San Marcos City Council. Some were tame, while others roared against “pagan prayers” and “godless people.”

I do think the ACLU went a bit far in its request, but I support the request because I see it for what it is, and my Christian faith (which I won’t discuss here in detail because I don’t want to cheapen it) compels me to respect and endorse it. I can’t tell you how sick I am of Christians who think that a request for non-sectarian prayer somehow equals persecution.

Persecution isn’t someone saying you’re wrong in praying, or in using government to prop up one faith over another. Persecution is someone saying you’re wrong before tossing you into an arena full of hungry lions or shooting you. There’s a difference that’s pretty easy to spot if one chooses to look hard enough for it.

Yet, there will always be those who feign persecution to lend faux moral weight to their statements. If no hungry lions are available, they’ll just make some up.

Nobody is trying to outlaw prayer here, as some have suggested. That’s a silly, knee-jerk reaction to a reasonable request that a representative body should be representative in all things public. We’re not all Christians here in San Marcos. We have Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, and yes, some atheists, too. All deserve a modicum of respect to their right to believe as they will. That becomes tough when your elected officials designate a religion above all others as their collected, preferred and endorsed deity.

At the core of this issue, however, is not God or pretend persecution, but simple, everyday politeness. It really doesn’t have to be more complicated that that. It’s polite to be inclusionary. It’s polite to respect the beliefs of others, even if they don’t coincide with yours. In fact, it’s the American way.

We aren’t a Christian nation, no matter how many people think so. We have no national faith. You won’t find it in any law. Christians do make up a majority of the population, but using that as a basis for establishing a national faith is like saying Ford is the national car because a majority might drive it. Our founders ensured a rich tapestry by providing for the freedom to worship, or not, as one sees fit, and specifically forbidding the establishment of a national religion.

In fact, James Madison, principal author of the Bill of Rights, said, “We are teaching the world the great truth that governments do better without kings and nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of government.”

Madison was right. He still is. So please, spare us the misinformed outrage. You can still pray. You can pray in the council chamber during the meeting as long as it doesn’t disrupt business. You can pray anywhere in America you want, even among those who don’t like it, to any deity you choose.

It’s also worth noting that in America, your rights are only as good as those of people you despise. Please keep that in mind the next time you rail against pagan prayers and godless people.

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0 thoughts on “This Martian Life: One nation, under many

  1. Sean,

    Good piece and while I might not have used words as harsh as yours, I can’t say that I disagree.

    Some of those who spoke, or who have posted here, expressed support for a more inclusive invocation. There were more than a few citing “the one true God who can help us,” denouncing “pagan” prayers (although the term used was actually pagan “prayers”) and inviting those of non-Christian faiths to find another country that would treat them better.

    In the end, it felt like I was sitting idly by, as people implored the government to allow their children to be educated with their own kind and “keep the niggers out of their schools.” It felt more and more exclusionary and quite unsettling.

    It felt like persecution; persecution of local minority groups who hadn’t even asked for represnetation, but just happened to have been mentioned by someone from the ACLU.

    I can only imagine how it must feel to some people of non-Christian faiths, to see a mob of people show up in protest of the mere suggestion that a non-denominational invocation be given, or that God forbid, some other faiths would be represented from time to time.

    Personally, when a majority group “rallies the troops” to march down to city hall to make sure that their rightful position at the top of the food chain is not threatened, it strikes me as neither impressive, nor compelling.

    I am secure enough in my beliefs and in my relationship with my creator, as I am with my self image in general, to accept, without feeling threatened, that there are those around me who do not look, talk, think or believe the way that I do and that their rights are every bit as sacred as mine.

    Being in the majority only compels me to take greater care to ensure that my actions don’t makes others feel unwelcome.

  2. This years Earth Day celebration in San Marcos included a blessing of the river by an Mario Garza of the Indigenous Cultures Institute. The mayor was present and made her rounds as part of appearances made by Lloyd Doggett’s and representatives for British Petroleum.

    A Catholic Priest offered a prayer and sprinkled holy water on those in attendance. The Mayor allowed herself to be sprinkled with the water and then left before the blessing of the springs by the Indigenous Cultures.

    The mayor showed disrespectful to those who were part of this country before the “christians” claimed it as their land. I think the Mayor and city council should extend an invitation to Mario Garza of the Indigenous Cultures to offer a prayer at our next city council meeting.

  3. We don’t need to think that our mayor is singling out anybody when she “puts in an appearance” at a function and then leaves early. She has a habit of doing so.

    Her duties are growing and wearing her out, and she wants to go home. I don’t blame her. Besides, her husband has been dragged to so many events that you can’t but feel sorry for him, though he appears to be very sweet about it.

  4. Thank you Sean and Ted for stating eloquently some of the difficulties I have long had with prayer at government meetings.
    Prayer, faith, and beliefs are extremely personal and easily misunderstood, misrepresented, or offensive.
    The first time I went to a county commissioner’s meeting and heard a prayer, I was surprised and disappointed. I wanted to start talking out like Madeline Murry O’Hair used to do, but I did the polite thing, which was nothing. Who said for evil to thrive, good people just have to do nothing?
    I refuse to go to WhatABurger as long as they display an oversized UNDER GOD in their Pledge of Allegiance quote on their window. I certainly don’t go to WhatABurger to receive religious indoctrination or to struggle with this gross violation of separation of church and state.
    If God is dependant on being recognized at government meetings, in our National Pledge of Allegiance, and on WhatABurger windows, then we are in much more trouble than anyone guessed.
    Would the world fall apart if a moment of silence were observed, so each could recognize their creator or not?

  5. Christianity is an evangelical religion and has been for nearly 2000 years. For many Christians, there’s an expectation that everyone else is a Christian until proven otherwise, and there’s an uneasiness when you try to “secularize” prayer, regardless of intentions.

    I like the idea of bringing in ministers/rabbis/imams/etc.. from different faiths to the CC meetings, but I have a feeling the ACLU wouldn’t approve.

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